Friday, November 9, 2012

Escaping the Snares

“And the Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome,
but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 
with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, 
if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the 
knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and 
escape from the snares of the devil, 
having been held captive by him to do his will."  
2 Timothy 3:24-26

Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you repeatedly tried to make something work, but couldn’t? I was in that situation when I first started playing computer games. I would try a game and when I would lose it I would try again and again. I didn't know why I continued to fail until I watched my daughter, who was 10 at the time, play “Pac Man.” As I watched her, I noticed she tried something new at each stage of the game until she had gone through every level and obtained a high score, where as I tried the same thing over and over.
As I look back at my life, I realize I have struggled with the same sinful pattern repeatedly and tried repeatedly to resolve them, but I had been trying to resolve them the same way and my way didn't work. I felt like a failure and wondered if I would ever be able to overcome besetting sin. I would commit to stopping something every morning during my quiet time, but by evening I had done the very thing I had committed to stopping. It was like being trapped in a snare. I realized I was trying to stop simply because I knew I should, but I didn’t really have godly sorrow over the sin or a heartfelt desire to give it up. I just tried to do it because it was the right thing to do. The above verse contains an important principal dealing with growth and besetting sin.      
First, I need to understand God is the one who works repentance in our hearts. Sometimes we are given to feelings of deep shame for not being more godly. It is often at those times that we try to muster up strength within ourselves to overcome sinful patterns, only to find we fail over and over. We may also find ourselves wanting to give up a sin and holding on to it at the same time, ashamed of this ambivalence. It was when I meditated on this verse I realized repentance is a grace God extends to us. As we confess to God and ask Him to cleanse us, He begins that cleansing by granting us repentance--a change of mind about sin with which we struggle. As we bring to Him the struggle of our ambivalence, God can quiet the desire for sin and help us overcome it. He will eventually change our love for specific sins to a hatred for it. Repentance has as its core God’s goodness and God's love manifested in us. As we grow to love God and others, we grow in our desire not to hurt God or His creation and we sin less. Shaming ourselves never helps us overcome sin, but focusing on God and how we can demonstrate love to Him and others does. As we catch glimpses of His holiness we will be compelled to confess our sin, crying out to Him for victory.     
Secondly, understanding God grants repentance will help us as we relate to people. Some of my struggle has been in relational patterns pf confronting someone in my power and having the relationship remain the same. God has called us to confront, but if nothing changes, we need to look at how we confront. We need to realize a confrontation is useless if we don’t bathe it in prayer and love. We should pray for our own heart, so we approach another in humility, love, and gentleness and are not trapped in the sins of a critical spirit, bitterness of heart, and contempt. Then we should also pray for the heart of the other before we approach, that God would prepare their heart for repentance. It is never the words we speak that changes a heart, it is the Holy Spirit's work of grace. We are simply to obey God as humble, loving truth speakers and then let Him work in the heart of the person. We too often want try to induce an immediate change, but if we do it in our own power and timing, the change is usually external and temporary. If we bathe the process in prayer and leave the results to God, He can transform the person’s heart and the change invoked will be internal and work out in an external way we can see. We also need to confront with God’s truth, because His truth is what the Holy Spirit uses to convict and set free.  
As we contemplate God's Word we want to ask ourselves, "Am I trying to muster growth and overcome sin in my own power or am I seeking the Lord, prayerfully reading His word? Am I confessing my sin and allowing Him to work an act of grace in my heart, resulting in true repentance?Am I praying for those I need to confront? Am I willing to be God’s messenger, letting Him do the necessary work in their heart?" We can tell the answer to the last question, by how responsible we feel for the person’s choices. Let us remember to not get in the middle of the relationship God wants to develop with another person. Let us continually encourage each other to love God and to seek to bring Him honor and glory by our lifestyles. 

Prayer: Lord than you for working in us an act of repentance that caused us to change from unbelievers living for ourselves to believers living for you. Please continue to reveal our sin to us and help us to be honest and to confess our sin so you might continually work acts of repentance that cause us to become more like you. Amen. 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!